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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

The pick: Why Washington State will beat Stanford

PULLMAN – The words should have left Jake Dickert’s mouth like needles.

“I think this Stanford team will drop a lot more (into coverage),” Dickert said on Monday, “to try to take that old mold of some of the successes.”

Washington State’s head coach was talking about his team’s Saturday matchup with Stanford, a team he expects to deploy the same defense that stymied his offense on several occasions earlier this season: The rush-three, drop-eight coverage designed to take away the Cougars’ downfield passing game.

At least two of the Cougars’ losses in their four-game slide attribute to that look, which gave quarterback Cameron Ward nowhere to throw the ball and made him look indecisive and panicky. UCLA ran it to perfection. Arizona did in spots, too. Ward and his receivers looked like shells of themselves.

Stanford, Dickert said, should play a similar defense. That was a death knell for WSU against two opponents. Here’s guessing it won’t be against a third.

The Cardinal may well deploy that look, and the Cougars may well take some time to adjust. But Stanford is home to the worst passing defense in all of FBS. The Cardinal surrender an average of 322 passing yards per game. Their coverage ranks last in the Pac-12, according to Pro Football Focus, and the grade gap between them and 11th-place Arizona is a full seven points.

That’s why Washington State should have a relatively easy time dispatching Stanford and erasing their four-game losing streak. It’s goes against logic that WSU could beat the very type of defense that kicked off the losing streak, but the Cougars have the athletes. The Cardinal do not.

The pick: Washington State 31, Stanford 21.